Summary: What does it mean to take God seriously? What does putting God first look like? What does it involve?
“Law & Order: SPU – Where Does God Fit In?”
A man purchased a statue of Christ and placed it on his desk in his den. A few days later his wife moved the statue to a table in the living room. Their five-year-old daughter, noticing the change of location, asked “Where are you going to put God?” Now there’s a question each of us needs to answer. In your life, just where does God fit in?
God, in his first commandment, makes it very clear where He wants to fit in: “You shall have no other gods before me.” He wants to be #1. We understand that God wants us to take Him seriously, but what does that mean? What does putting God first look like? What does it involve?
To get an accurate picture we need to start with THE CONTEXT OF THE COMMANDMENT. Only a few generations previous, Israel’s forefathers had worshiped idols and now Israel had just been rescued from Egypt. For years she had lived in a pagan land where people worshiped multiple gods. THERE WAS A GOD FOR EVERY SITUATION AND FOR EVERY NEED. The Egyptians worshiped the sun, the moon, wind, fire, insects, and animals, to mention a few. They had gods of the mountain, the river, the spring season, fall planting, and the forest. Perhaps their biggest and best known idol was Baal, the fertility or sex idol. And there were many more. Each god had a concrete idol or delineated ritual through which to focus upon it.
With all these idols religious life consisted of SACRIFICING TO THESE GODS IN ORDER TO APPEASE AND PLEASE THEM and to gain their protection or provisions for themselves. It was a person’s responsibility to keep each god happy. It’s no wonder God wanted not only to get His people out of Egypt but to get Egypt out of His people. So He commanded them to place Him above all gods. He, after all, made all the stuff these other idols were made of. He is, as we have seen, the God who had acted dramatically in their lives and offered them the opportunity to be His treasure, a special unit of persons.
In light of this context we can clearly DEFINE IDOLATRY. The Heidelberg Catechism puts it succinctly (Q&A #95): Idolatry “…is TO IMAGINE, CLING TO, OR TRUST IN SOMETHING OTHER THAN OR IN ADDITION TO THE ONE TRUE GOD WHO HAS BEEN REVEALED IN GOD’S WORD.” Notice that this definition strikes where most of us are – we like to worship ‘God and…” God and country, God and prosperity, God and peace, God and family, God and church, God and…you can fill in the blank. Anything we do not make captive to God and bring into His service has become our idol.
Harley Swiggum, author of the tremendous Bethel Bible Series, wrote a study on the Ten Commandments. I appreciate how he defined an idol. He wrote that an idol may be anyone or anything which REPLACES GOD AS THE SOURCE OF OUR ULTIMATE TRUST, which STANDS IN THE WAY of the Creator Father having His way in our lives, which MAKES OF GOD ‘A SECONDARY INTEREST’ and thereby leaves Him with nothing more than “our left-over loyalties”, or which leads us to such AN OVERPOWERING PREOCCUPATION with the present world that we forget our place in the next. Let’s say an idol is WHATEVER CONTROLS AND MOTIVATES YOU; it is anything more important and non-negotiable than God.
With this in mind we can begin to IDENTIFY MODERN IDOLATRY. While I could preach a sermon on all the idols I’m about to name, my purpose this morning is just to lift up suggestions that will focus your thinking as you contemplate the commandment this week. Baal worship, for instance, still exists today in those who revere sex and sexuality as the main thrust of life. Mars, the god of power, exists as nations build more and more war machines and weapons in attempts to keep the peace. Vulcan still exists for those whose main purpose in life is acquiring possessions. Venus lingers around every time an ad promotes personal beauty as something to be coveted above all else. (I read recently that, if current trends continue, today’s 10 year old girl, by the time she reaches 50, will have spent $450,000.00 on hair, make-up, elective surgeries, manicures, and pedicures.)
Or think about all the things people put faith in. Some put faith in faith – “If I have enough faith this will happen.” Some put faith in their experience by believing their experience is normative for everyone – if I have not had their experience I’m not really a full-blooded Christian. Others put faith in love – “Jesus was all about love. Just love everybody.” Some put faith in happiness believing happiness is the goal of life.